pumpkin puddin’ pie

Nation, I know you’re stuffed. But you didn’t think all I was going to say about Thanksgiving was drunken cranberry sauce, did you? Oh no. Besides, in Canada, we eat this stuff right through Christmas.

Yet another winner from the good (ahem, OCD) folks at Cook’s Illustrated, this is pumpkin pie as if it’s gone through all the rounds of America’s Next Top Model. Only it’s pie—and so much better for the soul. 

I never really thought there was much to mess with when it came to pumpkin pie. Take a recipe off the back of the can and you’ve got yourself a winner. But in the words of one of my editors, there’s always room to make good better. 

Soft and smooth as pudding, there’s ne’er a curdled spot of pumpkin in this baby. With the perfect shade of pumpkin-orange throughout, this pie doesn’t look like it’s spent too much time in a tanning booth either.  

As I read through Cooks Illustrated’s version of the classic, I decided to heed most of their advice. Following those those test kitchen folks’ advice is like becoming a teenager and learning that some rules are made to push. Take, for example, the following:

Silly Rule #1) Straining the filling through a fine mesh strainer. Yeah, right. (My friend Aaron, my favorite Cook’s Illustrated mocker, joked that he was surprised they didn’t want you to strain them through a series of mesh strainers, graduating in fineness. Borrowing a tip from his wife, I put my hand-held blender to work where the old strainer once ruled.)

Silly Rule #2) Using 3 eggs PLUS 2 more egg yolks? Um, since when did I not need my arteries?

Other than that I followed the recipe verbatim, except for this one not-so-secret ingredient I would now like to share with you. The story goes a little something like this:

Last year I was making my first ever pumpkin pie for our first American Thanksgiving when I discovered I didn’t have any evaporated milk. Gosh! Darn it! Whatever would I do? Neither of us felt like leaving the house, and as I pawed through my fridge for a reasonable facsimilie, there it was, smiling back at me: a carton of premium, thick-as-molasses eggnog. 

With my deepest apologies to evaporated milk. As much as I loved you, something taller, darker, and more handsome came a knockin’ at my oven door. And let me tell you, things have never been so hot as this here pie. 

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grown-up cranberry sauce

It’s kind of sad that I don’t get a full-fledged Thanksgiving this year. I know that every day is a feast with the comparative abundance I enjoy on a daily basis. When you’re living with a foot in two countries whose fall holidays don’t match up, though, planning a proper feast can slip easily by the wayside.

This year, our last-minute host in Ottawa delivered some fine impromptu stuffing and sweet potatoes. Days later, my visiting chef (mom) whipped up a pumpkin pie to help us refuel after our marathon. This Thursday, on the American holiday, we’ll likely share a smorgasbord of non-traditional dishes with other left-behind friends.

And so for this most humble of Thanksgiving posts, I had to reach way back into my photo archives for last year’s grown-up cranberry sauce, which I discovered on one of the first food blogs I started reading regularly. I have only one thing to say about this sauce: we’re still talking about it a year later.

I know what you’re thinking–why mess with perfection? But trust me on this one. It’s not so far off from the original, really. And after 20+ years of eating plain old cranberries n’ sugar, don’t you think it’s time for a change? I mean, let’s face it, life is too short for the same old. And If you hate it, I promise you someone will be happy to take it off your hands. (Express post to our place works as well.)

There’s something about an old favorite with a twist, like a reminder that old things too can be made new. What could be better accessories to tart, sweet cranberry sauce spiked with ruby red port, piney rosemary, and melt-in-your mouth figs.

My deepest apologies go out to turkey: there are some sauces that are just too good for you. This one deserves to be eaten by the spoonful. Or at least spread on crackers with a nickel of goat cheese.

But don’t despair, dearest bird. For you there’s always the recipe on the back of the cranberry bag.

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